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13 Jun 2011

Placebo Management: Impacting Employees’ Beliefs

The article, “Think Yourself Better,” in the May 21, 2011 edition of The Economist discussed the placebo effect: belief in a medical treatment increases its effectiveness. Research is also showing that this effect continues even if patients know a placebo was used. So, if belief helps doctors treat patients, why can’t it help managers manage employees?

The connection becomes more pragmatic when we consider that placebos work better when the drama around administering them is intensified. For example, the more enthusiastic the doctor is in administering it, the more likely it will have a greater effect. Additionally, giving an injection works better than a pill and a sham surgery works better yet.

The application to management is this: you can improve employees’ performances by telling them you believe they will become better. By connecting this belief to various new tools, initiatives and training, you will make the tools, initiative and training work better.

Presentation is a large part of what makes placebos work. A previous post talked about two identical bonus plans that were presented differently to employees. One motivated them more than the other did. This held true even when employees learned later that they earned the same bonus under both plans.

In pragmatic terms, this means that the more enthusiastic you are, the more attention you pay to employees and the more important you believe they are, the better they will do. This will occur even if you don’t show them one single technique to do their jobs better.

To make employees better, help them believe they can become better by showing sincerely and enthusiastically that you believe they can become better. If you want good employees, treat them like good employees.

 

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6 Responses

  1. Fascinating! One of the things I have learned in life as I have gotten older, is that prosperity loves enthusiasm. I experience this as a natural law of energy and attraction. Enthusiasm is a potent, potent force. I try to cultivate it within myself as often as possible. If ever I feel grumpy, it means I have forgotten myself and am not aligning with this fundamental law of The Universe!

    Thanks for this insightful, thought-provoking post, Mike.

    { twitter = @danenow }

  2. Great blog Mike! I agree with you conclusion. The attention, enthusiasm and energy put in to different aspects of management always gives results. Working as sales manager, I see this on every occasion and event. It is very important quality to improve and constantly work with as a manager.
    Thanks for a good blog,
    Shahram

    1. I appreciate the compliment, Shahram, and the reinforcement of the post’s conclusion with your experience. It’s amazing what people can do if you believe in them. Thank you. ~Mike

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